Reduce salt with herbs and spices

Growing herbs and spices in your home garden to reduce salt from your diet can lower your risk of heart disease.

April is a great time of year in Michigan. Before you know it, in the Midwest families and communities will be planting their gardens. The harvest will begin coming in June and go all the way through the fall. Many people wait all year for the harvest of fresh fruits, vegetables and delicious flavoring in spices and herbs.

According to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, the leaves used of herbs and spices come from bark, berries, flower buds, roots or seeds. Although spices and herbs have been used since ancient times, they are playing a new role in food preparation. The unique flavors spices and herbs add to food helps us reduce the amount of salt and sugar we normally add to our dishes.      

Researchers have found that people that eat more plant based foods have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association those that limit the amount of red meat in their diet, but do eat Omega-3 fats (such as some fish) live a healthier life.

It is important to remember your diet alone is not the only factor for a “healthy heart. “Exercise, rest and lifestyle with a veggie rich diet are all contributing factors in how you feel and your overall health.

Michigan State University Extension recommends replacing salt with flavorful herbs and spices, which are easy to grow in home gardens. As you prepare for the summer months and after you have tilled the garden, look for recipes that complement the fresh produce, herbs and spices you planted. For example, there is nothing like a fresh tomato from the home garden. The following recipe contains all the nutrients of the tomato and has added flavor boost, without using salt!

Roasted Tomatoes

By: Rachel Ray

Makes: 10 servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes

There are many ways to use this basic recipe: serve as an antipasto; simmer with onions, red wine and herbs for a flavorful tomato sauce; use as a pizza topping; chop and add to risotto; or top with your favorite soft cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes (about 15)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Stem the tomatoes and slice them in half lengthwise. Gently squeeze out the seeds or scoop them out with a spoon.
  2. Lay the tomatoes, cut side up, in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme and garlic. Roast for 40 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast the tomatoes until caramelized, about 20 minutes more.
  3. Turn off the oven and leave the tomatoes inside for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and let cool completely. Peel if desired. The tomatoes will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator or for up to six months in the freezer.

For more nutrition and health tips to manage chronic disease visit the MSU Extension website at

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